Friday, February 23, 2024

LATIN AMERICA | 29-07-2021 18:54

Peru's Castillo chooses leftist party colleague as prime minister

New leader chooses 41-year-old left-winger Guido Bellido – who first became a lawmaker just six days ago – to be Peru's new prime minister.

Peru's President Pedro Castillo on Thursday named a prime minister from within his Marxist-Leninist Peru Libre ("Free Peru"_ party – 41-year-old Guido Bellido who first became a lawmaker six days ago and has never held public office.

Inaugurated in Lima himself just Wednesday, Castillo presided over Bellido's swearing-in at the Pampa de la Quinua, site of the 1824 battle that ended Spanish domination of Peru and South America at large.

Bellido, an electronic engineer, vowed he would represent the interests of all Peruvians and advance "the fight against corruption."

He is one 37 Peru Libre lawmakers elected to the 130-member Congress in April. Under Peruvian law, parliamentarians can also hold government positions.

Like the president, Bellido has a rural, peasant background. Both wear traditional white sombreros – though Bellido's hails from his native Cusco region and that of Castillo, 51, from Cajamarca.

Peruvian media say Bellido was investigated by prosecutors for an alleged "apology for terrorism" over statements made after taking up his parliamentary seat last Friday – which assured him immunity from prosecution.

In statements to the Inka Vision online news outlet, he appeared to defend people who supported the Shining Path Maoist guerrilla group which fought the state from 1980 to 2000 and is dubbed a "terrorist" organisation by Lima.

"The country was a disaster, there were Peruvians who mistakenly took a path – are they Peruvians or not?" he said, adding: "What do you have against the senderistas?" 

Senderistas is the name for followers of Shining Path, which some detractors have sought to link Castillo to, though he has insisted he fought against the movement as a "rondero" or peasant patrol member.

The other 18 members of Castillo's cabinet will be announced late Thursday, the presidency has announced.

Rural school teacher and trade unionist Castillo took office on Wednesday promising an end to corruption and a new constitution. He has vowed to upend a quarter century of neo-liberal government and create a better life for struggling Peruvians.

He was declared the election victor on July 19, more than six weeks after a runoff race against rightwing free-market defender Keiko Fujimori, whose allegations of voter fraud then had to be reviewed by an electoral jury.

Fujimori, who faces a corruption trial for allegedly accepting illegal funding for two previous presidential campaigns, said her Popular Force party would be a "firm wall against the latent threat of a new communist constitution" under Castillo.


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